Saturday, April 30, 2016

Groundbreaking settlement to end discrimination against blind Uber riders who use guide dogs

From Disability Rights Advocates:

April 30, 2016 – Berkeley, CA – In an unprecedented settlement announced today, Uber has agreed to take affirmative steps to prevent discrimination against blind riders who use guide dogs in its transportation network across the United States.
The settlement resolves a lawsuit—National Federation of the Blind of California, et al. v. Uber Technologies, Inc.—brought by the National Federation of the Blind, its California affiliate, and individuals who use guide dogs, to ensure that guide dog users have full and equal access to vehicles in the Uber network. This is the first nationwide class-action settlement of its kind against an app-based transportation network company.
While the growth of Uber’s on-demand transportation services has the potential to be a boon to blind people, drivers using the Uber platform have denied rides to blind people who use guide dogs. Any such discrimination violates federal and state laws that protect the rights of people with disabilities. Under the settlement, Uber will work to end this discrimination and blind individuals will be able to use Uber without the threat of discrimination.
Uber has agreed to take affirmative steps to tell drivers about their obligations to transport riders who are disabled and use service animals. Uber will require that existing and new drivers expressly confirm that they understand their legal obligations to transport riders with guide dogs or other service animals. Uber will also implement stricter enforcement policies—Uber will remove a driver from the platform upon a single complaint if Uber finds that the driver knowingly denied a person with a disability a ride because the person was traveling with a service animal. In addition, if Uber receives complaints that a driver denied a person a ride because of a service animal on more than one occasion, the driver will permanently be removed from the Uber platform regardless of the driver’s intent.
Uber will also enhance its response system for complaints related to discrimination against guide-dog users, and will track detailed data on all allegations of such discrimination. Additionally, the National Federation of the Blind and its California affiliate will deploy testers over a multi-year period to evaluate Uber’s compliance with the settlement.
Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “Access to reliable and effective transportation is critical to the ability of blind people to live the lives we want. Uber and similar services can be a great asset to the blind when they are fully and equally available to us. The National Federation of the Blind is therefore pleased with Uber’s commitment to effectively enforce a nondiscrimination policy with respect to blind people who use guide dogs. We look forward to working with Uber to ensure that all blind passengers can take advantage of the innovative transportation service it offers.”
Plaintiff Michael Hingson commented: “This settlement is a great step forward for all blind people. Uber can be such a convenient transportation option. I’m looking forward to being able to use the Uber services when Uber makes the changes needed to fix its discrimination problem and bring true access to guide dog users.”
Attorney Larry Paradis of Disability Rights Advocates said: “This settlement sets important precedent and shows that companies cannot ignore the rights of people with disabilities just because they use a new technology or a novel business model. We are pleased we could come to an agreement with Uber and look forward to working with the company to ensure a more accessible system.”
Attorney Michael Bien of Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP observed: “Technology-enabled services such as Uber have tremendous potential to empower people with disabilities to live more independent lives. By ensuring reliable equal access for blind riders with service animals to Uber’s services, this agreement harnesses that potential.”
Plaintiffs and defendant submitted the proposed settlement to the court on April 29, 2016, and seek approval from the court to settle as a nationwide class action. Copies of the settlement and other documents can be found at
Plaintiffs are represented by Larry Paradis and Julia Marks of Disability Rights Advocates, Timothy Elder of TRE Legal, and Michael Bien and Michael Nunez of Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Thai university creates cheap, touchable ink for blind people

From CNET:

Researchers at Thammasat University in Thailand have created something that will potentially make it a lot cheaper for the blind to read. 
Called Touchable Ink, this new ink has the ability to rise when heated, turning what would normally be a flat row of printed Braille letters to an embossed version readable by fingers, according to a media release.
Developed in conjunction with Samsung, who supplied the printers, and advertising agency J Walter Thompson (JWT), the university expects that the ink will eventually be able to be used in normal printers. 
Touchable Ink promises to lower the cost of printing Braille text for blind users from the current cost of $1.1 (£0.75, AU$1.50) per embossed A4-sized page to just a mere 3 cents per page using a standard printer. Furthermore, there won't be a need to pay around $2,850 for a Braille embosser." 
We are quite certain that the cost of touchable ink would be a lot cheaper than Braille printing, considering that the material ingredient that we use is a lot cheaper compared by volume to the average toner quantity in cartridges available on the market," said a JWT spokesperson to CNET. 
It's not the only recent instance of technology being used to help to visually impaired. Facebook recently rolled out a new feature that describes what's in a picture for blind or visually impaired users with screen readers (a program that provides audio descriptions of the text on screen). 
Similarly, Apple's iPhones and their VoiceOver function help the visually impaired with navigating around town, surf the internet and even snap some great pictures.

Applications now being accepted for NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship

From AAPD:

Thanks to a generous contribution from NBCUniversal, the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) is proud to offer the NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship.
In 2016 the NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship will offer eight (8) scholarships to 2nd year associate students; undergraduate sophomores, juniors, and seniors; and graduate students with disabilities who are interested in pursuing a career in the entertainment industry. Each recipient will receive $5,625 to help cover the cost of education at their current college or university. The scholarship will be available for the 2016 fall semester. The 2016 application is due July 1, 2016 by 5pm ET.
This scholarship has been named in honor of Tony Coelho, a former United States Representative from California and the primary author and sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Coelho was elected to Congress in 1978 and served for six terms until 1989. During his terms, Coelho authored the original ADA, signed into law by President George H.W. Bush. By 1994, the U.S. Census Bureau reported 800,000 more people with severe disabilities were employed than when the ADA was first enacted, in large part thanks to the work of Coelho, his successors, and predecessors.
From 1994 to 2001, after being appointed by President Bill Clinton, Coelho served as Chairman of the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities. He also worked as the Vice Chair of the National Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities. In 1998, Clinton appointed Coelho as the United States Commissioner General at the 1998 World Expo in Portugal. Clinton also appointed Coelho as Co-Chair to the U.S. Census Monitoring Board, a position he held until his appointment as general chairman of the Gore Presidential Campaign.
From June 2009 to June 2010, Coelho served as the Chairman of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), the country’s largest cross-disability membership organization.

2016 Scholarship Application Process


Any 2nd year associate’s degree student; undergraduate sophomore, junior, or senior; or graduate student who self-identifies as an individual with any type of disability. Students must be interested in pursuing a career in the entertainment industry – all majors are welcome to apply.
Please note: You will not be required to disclose your specific disability; however, your application for this scholarship will signify that you consider yourself a person with a disability. This scholarship is run specifically for students with disabilities by the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD).
Applicants chosen to receive an NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship release all information contained in their application for use on the AAPD website and in public press releases, including releases to the program funders and potential employees.

How to Apply

Due to an overwhelming interest in the NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship in 2015, AAPD is proud to announce that eight (8) scholarships will be available to students with disabilities pursuing communications or media-related degrees in 2016. AAPD would like to thank NBCUniversal for their commitment to the growth of the program and increasing their support in 2016!
Apply Online!
Applications can be completed online (through the link above) and must be submitted by 5pm ET on July 1, 2016. Incomplete or late applications will not be considered.
Applications can also be submitted to To do so, please send one email containing the completed application form (download the Word application form here) as well as your a) resume, b) unofficial transcript, and c) letter of recommendation. All applications must be submitted with all required attachments in one email. Any candidate who submits an incomplete application will be automatically disqualified.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Burger King's king finally speaks, by signing, for American Sign Language day

From Adweek:

From the days when he would pop up, unannounced, in your bed in the morning, Burger King's King character has never actually spoken a single word, preferring to let his creepily silent visage speak for him. But now, to celebrate National American Sign Language Day this Friday, the King is speaking up—by signing.
And he's asking BK fans to come up with an official sign for the Whopper sandwich.
Check out the announcement of the project in the video below, from David in Miami and Bullitt director Josh Greenbaum. It's creatively noteworthy in part because the entire 2:27 video is completely silent, which lends it a certain poignance that it wouldn't have otherwise.

"The Burger King brand is built not only on including everyone, but celebrating everyone," Fernando Machado, the fast-food chain's svp of global brand management, said in a statement. "National ASL Day felt like a perfect opportunity for the King to extend our brand mantra and engage with the ASL community on such a great day."
BK has also created an ASL version of its logo, and is making a scholarship donation benefiting students who are dedicating their studies to ASL language and interpretations.
It also has the King interpreting a recent TV spot in ASL, as you can see below.